In what should be somewhat of an eye-opener for political activists from all points of view, Twitter recently revealed that it complied with 75% of requests for information on users associated with various threats or criminal acts:
Twitter received 679 requests for user information from the U.S. government in the last year, according to a report released by the company Monday.
The requests from the United States exceeded that of any other country, and Twitter released “some or all” of the information asked for in 75 percent of these requests, the company said. Twitter added that the requests for user information are typically connected with criminal investigations or cases.
The report represents the first time Twitter has made such figures public. The report included data from Jan. 1 through June 30 of this year, and was published just hours after a New York criminal court judge ruled that the company must hand over three months worth of tweets for an Occupy Wall Street protester.
The company reported that it has received more government requests for user information in the first half of 2012 than it did all of last year.
“These policies help inform people, increase awareness and hold all involved parties—including ourselves—more accountable,” wrote Jeremy Kessel, manager of legal policy at Twitter, in a company blog post.
Kessel also noted that the data guides the company “when making difficult decisions” and developing its policies, such as notifying users when their account information is being requested.
On Monday I wrote about Austin Scott, the Georgia Congressman who has taken up the issue of domestic drone usage in the House. Now Senator Rand Paul has introduced companion legislation to address the issue in the Senate.
Senator Paul’s press release gave more information about the legislation than I had when I wrote about Austin Scott’s bill earlier this week. According to Paul’s press release, the bill requires a warrant before drones can be used domestically, allows anyone to sue the government for violating it, and makes any information gathered in violation of the bill inadmissible in court.
As I said on Monday, all of that is great. It requires judicial review before a violation of privacy. Where it gets ugly is in the exceptions. The reports on the exceptions in Scott’s bill earlier this week were vague, but Paul’s press release sheds some light on the list of exceptions. The bill excludes national border patrol, instances where drone usage is required to save lives, and times of high risk of a terrorist attack.
We’ll have to see the full text of the bill before passing judgment, but I’m a little disappointed in Senator Paul on this. He’s been one of the few standing up to the exceptions lists that give government the ability to bypass the Fourth Amendment. It’s disheartening to see those loopholes in legislation coming from him.
I don’t know if this is an attempt to play nice with his GOP friends or if there’s something else going on here, but giving loopholes for big, vague, exceptions that allow the government to bypass the Fourth Amendment isn’t Rand Paul’s usual style.
With the passage of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) in the House last week, many of us are still trying to determine the impact of the bill on the Internet and how it will affect users.
There is no easy answer to the question, after all, this is a complex issue in a time when hacking and other cyber crimes are becoming more prominent. But those of us that helped kill the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) because of concerns over censorship, CISPA may indeed be much worse because it essentially ignores Fourth Amendment protections:
According to the bill’s main author, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), CISPA’s main purpose is to allow companies and the government to share information to prevent and defend against cyberattacks. But the bill’s language is written so broadly that it carves out a giant cybersecurity loophole in all existing privacy laws.
The problem is in the bill’s definition of “cyber threat information” and how companies can respond to it. “Cyber threat information” is an overly vague term that can be interpreted to include a wide range of tasks that normally wouldn’t be considered cyberthreats — like encrypting emails or running an anonymization tool such as Tor — and as a result, a company’s options would be so numerous as to allow it to read any user’s communications for a host of reasons.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has signed into law a bill that would allow residents to use force against police that they believe to be unlawfully entering their home:
The governor’s office says that Daniels signed the bill aimed at giving people the right to defend their homes against illegal entry by police Tuesday evening.
The bill that was a response to a public uproar over a state Supreme Court ruling last year that residents couldn’t resist officers even during an illegal entry.
Supporters say the proposal strengthens the legal rights of people against government agents improperly entering their homes. But police groups worry about the measure giving people justification for attacking officers.
This bill precariously straddles the line between rightfully protecting one’s home and giving incentive for unnecessary violence. The distinction must be made between the unlawful entry of a police officer and that of any other person. The intent of the former, be it correct or not, is to enforce law with as little violence as possible. The intent of any other intruder is to steal property or bring harm to an occupant, and thus always merits force against the intruder.
The bill clarifies when a person is legally justified in using force and when they are not, but codifying this sort of legal defense may encourage residents to make that distinction by means of physical force instead of jurisprudence.
The CIA may soon have a new way to spy on Americans. According to a new report from Wired, the intelligence agency will be using the Internet through electronic devices, including TVs and alarm clocks, to pry into our lives:
Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”
All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.
“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said, “the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”
Fresh off his detenion by TSA officers at Nashville International Airport on Monday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), son of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, has written an explanation of the incident:
Today, while en route to Washington to speak to hundreds of thousands of people at the March for Life, I was detained by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for not agreeing to a patdown after an irregularity was found in my full body scan. Despite removing my belt, glasses, wallet and shoes, the scanner and TSA also wanted my dignity. I refused.
I showed them the potentially offending part of my body, my leg. They were not interested. They wanted to touch me and to pat me down. I requested to be rescanned. They refused and detained me in a 10-foot-by-10-foot area reserved for potential terrorists.
I told them that I was a frequent flier and that just days ago I was allowed to be rescanned when the scanner made an error. At no time did I ask for special treatment, but I did insist that all travelers be awarded some decency and leniency in accommodating the screening process.
My detention was real and I was repeatedly instructed not to leave the holding area. When I used my phone to inform my office that I would miss my flight, and thus miss my speech to the March for Life, I was told that now I would be subjected to a full body patdown.
I asked if I could simply restart the screening process to show that the machine had made an error. I was denied and informed that since I used my phone, to call for help, I must now submit or not fly.
Coming off a gaffe concerning the issue of abortion where he seemed to take both sides of the issues, Herman Cain made yet another statement showing a lack of understanding of basic constitutional principles:
In an interview with David Brody last night, Cain said he’d sign a pro-life constitutional amendment if it crossed his desk as president.
“Yes. Yes I feel that strongly about it. If we can get the necessary support and it comes to my desk I’ll sign it,” he said. “That’s all I can do. I will sign it.”
The only problem with that statement? Presidents don’t sign constitutional amendments — they’re passed in Congress and then need to be ratified by the states, and the president plays no formal role in the process.
Yesterday, a federal judge found two parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, a law that was passed in the wake of 9/11, to be an unconstitutional infringement on the Bill of Rights, specifically the Fourth Amendment:
Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, “now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment.”
Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield sought the ruling in a lawsuit against the federal government after he was mistakenly linked by the FBI to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004.
The federal government apologized and settled part of the lawsuit for $2 million after admitting a fingerprint was misread. But as part of the settlement, Mayfield retained the right to challenge parts of the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the authority of law enforcers to investigate suspected acts of terrorism.
Mayfield claimed that secret searches of his house and office under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Aiken agreed with Mayfield, repeatedly criticizing the government.
“For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law — with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised,” she wrote.
Big Brother is watching you. Make no mistake. While the federal government doesn’t have the resources to watch you directly, they’re doing their damnedest to make your ISP provider a proxy. After all, the House Judiciary Committee voted 19-10 to pass HR 1981 (it really should have held out for HR 1984 though) which will require all ISP providers to maintain a log of internet activity for 12 months.
The bill, called ‘‘Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011’’, is designed to do just that. I have no problem with going after child pornographers. The problem is, this ain’t going to just be used to catch people looking at kiddie porn. It will be used as a tool for other things, even when looking at information on the internet isn’t illegal.
H.R. 1981 would impose sweeping requirements on a broad swath of online service providers to keep new records on all of their customers, just in case the police ever want to investigate any of them. In particular, the bill would require any commercial providers of Internet access to keep for at least 12 months a record of which users were assigned to particular network addresses at particular times.
Such addresses, like the Internet Protocol (IP) address assigned to your cable modem by your cable company, or to your laptop by a wireless router, can be used to identify who visited particular websites or posted particular content online–threatening your right to privately browse the web and to speak and read anonymously when you’re online.
The book 1984 is probably the most pan-partisan book ever. Regardless of your political ideology, the book scares the pants off of you, at least to some extent. If you’re like 99.9% of the population, you blame the another side for taking us closer to the point that Big Brother is reality. Laws that extent surveillance powers are usually the most vehemently debated because of that fear of 1984′s world. Only now, it seems the government’s skipping the new laws and just trying to change the interpretation of current law for the same effect. At least, that’s according to a couple of senators who would, at least in theory, have a clue about what’s going on.
“There is a significant discrepancy between what most Americans – including many members of Congress – think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and how government officials interpret that same law,” wrote the Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. “We believe that most members of the American public would be very surprised to learn how federal surveillance law is being interpreted in secret. ”
OK, I probably wouldn’t, but that’s because I’m cynical and paranoid when it comes to government, but I suspect that most of my fellow Americans don’t feel the same way as me. So what’s the concern specifically?
The Senators won’t say, exactly, what elements of this secret Patriot Act have them so spooked. But Wyden told Danger Room in May that the so-called “business-records provision” is a major source of concern. It empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to a security investigation.